Nixon As Icon

May 28, to September 14, 2011

Nearly forty years after he left office and twenty years after his death, Richard Nixon remains an indelible part of Popular Culture and American political culture. With a public life that spawned the entire Cold War Richard Nixon, having run in five presidential elections, having been embroiled in hot-button issues like anti-communism, the Vietnam War and Watergate, Nixon has presented himself and been presented by others in arguably more ways than any other modern president. This exhibition uses cartoons, official and campaign ads, commercial film and television, and folk art to show the evolution of Richard Nixon's image in the American consciousness. Although his successful 1968 campaign introduced the slogan "Nixon's the One," in the public's mind there never was "one" Nixon. Arranged chronologically, the materials show that very different views of this very public man often co-existed. It is up to the visitor to differentiate image from reality. Regardless of what choice they make, this exhibition --which for the first time unifies the Library's own collection with iconic pieces from other museums -- demonstrates the pervasiveness of the 37th President in American life and the debates that that ubiquitousness created. Special Exhibits Gallery

In an eleven-page memorandum from President Nixon to his chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, dated December 4, 1970, President Nixon dissects his staff’s public relations inefficiencies as it relates to his image, and how to go about creating a mystique. The memo was prompted by an earlier incident with anti-war demonstrators attacking the President at a mid-year election rally in San Jose, California. Two days later at Sky Harbor Airport in Arizona at another rally Nixon made a quintessential speech about refusing to have his freedom limited by demonstrators saying “This President is not going to be cooped up in the White House.” Nixon wanted to use that filmed speech for his election night address to the nation. It turned out to be a disaster - the videotape was of such bad quality that when broadcast it compared unfavorably to Senator Muskie’s address favoring the Democrats. A copy of the first page of the memo is on display. Box 10, Contested Materials. Link>
Location: Special Exhibit Gallery